Value Extraction from Land and Real Estate in Karachi
This paper does not theorise nor does it challenge any theory of gentrification. It seeks to show how land-use changes and extracting value from real estate takes place in Karachi, a global south mega city. This process of extracting value pushes out poor communities from the land and homes of their ancestors and replaces them with richer and/or more politically powerful groups. These processes are very different from those in the global north. It also seeks to show how the concepts of “gentrification” and its vocabulary and neo-liberal planning concepts are shaping academic training and public consciousness regarding heritage and conservation in Pakistan and how attempts to take over Karachi’s beaches (which are extensively use by its working and lower middle classes) for high income clubs, condominiums and five-star hotels and marinas have been made in the recent part. It is important to note that this development is taking place in areas located in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) (a military control housing colony) and those areas that come under the jurisdiction of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), a federal government agency controlled, for all practical purposes by the Pakistan Navy.
To understand what this means requires an understanding of land ownership and control pattern in the city. The City District Government Karachi (CDGK) directly controls 30.9 percent of land in the city. Indirectly it also controls land allocated to civilian cooperative housing societies. This land amounts to only 1.9 percent of the total land mass of the Karachi district. Federal agencies, such as, Railways, KPT, Port Qasim, and the Federal Board of Revenue (BoR) control 4.7 percent, the DHA 5 percent and the military cantonments 2.1 percent. The rest of the 56 percent is controlled by various agencies of the provincial government and by the national parks (20.7 percent). All the federal agencies (which include the military cantonments and the DHA) have their own development programmes and building byelaws and zoning regulations while the city government has its own plans and regulatory institutions. There is no coordination between these different agencies for planning purposes except for overcoming issues related to utilities. The city government, by virtue of being governed by an elected council, is more influenced by community and citizen concerns than the federal agencies. In addition, federal agencies have the support of the powerful central government and its planning and financial institutions. To understand what projects have been proposed for Karachi and where, in the recent past, it is important to understand this difference.